Light Pollution (2007)

Science policy


The President of the RAS wants the government's proposals to speed up the planning system to take into account the need to control light pollution.

On 21 May 2007, the Government published the Planning White Paper, Planning for a Sustainable Future. The White Paper set out a programme of proposed reforms to the planning system to be taken forward in the next three years. The reforms cover all development consent regimes, including those for major energy, water, transport and waste development, as well as the town and country planning system.

The President, Professor Michael Rowan-Robinson, wrote to the Department of Communities and Local Government to support the submission of one of the Society’s fellows, Mr Martin Morgan-Taylor, who has prepared a statement on behalf of the British Astronomical Association, the Campaign for Dark Skies, the Leicester Astronomical Society and the De Montfort University School of Law. This examines the environmental effect of the present lighting infrastructure and describes the piecemeal way in which planning decisions on lighting schemes are taken, and how, given that light pollution spills widely across local boundaries, the present system of planning is not effectively coordinated.

Professor Rowan-Robinson notes that...
"Although most of our major professional optical telescopes are now located on remote mountain-top sites like Hawaii, Chile, and the Canary Islands, retaining the darkest possible night-sky in the UK remains important to astronomy for several reasons.
Firstly the training of young astronomers at university generally takes place on UK telescopes.
Secondly 'amateur' astronomers make important contributions to astronomy by scanning the sky for new comets and supernovae, and through monitoring of brighter variable stars, including those being occulted by companion stars or planets.
And finally it is vital for astronomy to retain the support of the public, who take the greatest interest in astronomical events like eclipses, comets, and meteor showers.
The darkness of the night sky in towns and villages could be enormously improved by sensible planning decisions, for example reducing the pressure in neon street-lamps, capping all outside lighting, turning inessential lights off on or before midnight. An example of good practice is the island of La Palma where the Canarian government has imposed strong restrictions on night-time lighting in order to retain the quality of its astronomical observatory."

The President's letter can be read here pdf_smallPlanning for Sustainable Development.pdf

Mr Martin Morgan-Taylor's submission can be read here Planning.pdf